WASHINGTON — More than one-third of the people in the United States under the age of 65 had no health insurance for some or all of 2006 and 2007, according to a study released Thursday by Families USA, an advocacy group for the uninsured.
The 89.6 million individuals identifying themselves as lacking insurance for at least a month, according to the advocacy group, was almost double the number of uninsured reported by the Census Bureau for 2006.
"It's simply unacceptable that for lack of basic health coverage, nearly 90 million Americans had to live in fear of illness and injury in the last two years," said Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees national healthcare programs.
California had the largest number of individuals uninsured during some or all of that two-year period -- 13 million, or nearly 41% of state residents younger than 65. Texas was second, with 9.3 million. Americans older than 65 are eligible for Medicare and were not considered in the Families USA study.
More than 70% of those without insurance in part or all of 2006 and 2007 were employed full time, the report said.
Half lacked insurance for nine months or more.
"This is a story of working people, working families. This is not a story of people looking for a handout," said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA. "These are people who simply can't afford to pay for health coverage with their modest paychecks."
Since Families USA's first study, covering the years 1999 and 2000, the number of periodically uninsured individuals has risen by 17 million. The most significant factor in the that increase is the rising cost of insurance, Pollack said.
According to the most recent census data, about 47 million people said they were uninsured in 2006. That figure comes from the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey, which is conducted yearly. Among other things, it asks people if they have been uninsured in the previous calendar year.
But that survey does not give an accurate assessment of the uninsured, Pollack said, because it can exclude people who may have been uninsured for less than the whole year.
The Families USA report considered data from both the Current Population Survey and the Census Bureau's Survey of Income and Program Participation, which included people who said they were uninsured for just part of a year. The report projected through 2007.
"This is not a contradiction, but a fuller picture of Census Bureau data," Pollack said at a news conference.